The Step off of the Platform

I went zip lining last week. For someone who has a fear of heights when I’m not comfortably contained in some sort of vehicle, zip lining was a good idea back when I thought about it with both feet on the ground. As we drove up the mountain in a former Dutch army truck that teetered on the edge of said mountain? Less of a good idea.

Actually, it was a terrifying idea.

I went anyway because everyone else went. Yes, while it didn’t involve a bridge, I “jumped” because my friends “jumped.” Also, there weren’t any refunds. So. There.

The zip line team put harnesses and safety equipment on our team and hooked us to the safety line before the first line. I saw my friends all step off the platform like it was nothing while I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest in 20 degree weather. I couldn’t decide whether to cry or embarrass myself by vomiting. Honest to goodness.

Then it was my turn.

Marisol hooked both carabiners to the cable and then I had to step off the platform, which should have been easier, but both of my feet refused to leave the platform.

Although in my head I knew I was wearing a helmet, a harness with redundant carabiners, hooked to a cable that would hold up to 6000 lbs, and I had seen a good portion of my team do the first line, as my friend Heather pointed out, you don’t feel the tension of the equipment working until you are pushed take a step off the platform.

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Don’t be fooled by my smile – I was terrified!

Much like like my life.

God puts these crazy steps in front of me. And I do everything I can to keep both feet where I feel safe. I make alternative plans. I offer other ideas to God, as if I could remotely control the events of my life. Even when I know I can’t move forward, that I can’t get off the mountain until I let go of the platform, I will try to make another way.

But platforms aren’t meant to be permanent living spaces. They are places for jumping off.

It’s been one of those themes that I’ve seen in my life over the past three and a half years: the audacity, the recklessness of faith. It challenges our commitment to this God who calls us to live a fuller, bigger life…if we’re willing to let go of our feeling of control. I remember the prayer that day walking my dog – Lord, what more can I do for You? What more can I give You? Apparently, it is my wholehearted acceptance of His will, even when it feels reckless or audacious.

We are in a transition season because we have another opportunity to trust the tension in the rope after we step off the platform. I have run out of justifications, excuses, and alternatives for God. I wrote the email that finally closed the door on my way.

There’s no going back if we want to enjoy the ride, if we want to move forward. We have to step off of the platform and trust…

I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, then you grow wings. – William Sloan Coffin

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The view of Agua (Antigua, Guatemala, 2013)

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Prayer of St. Francis


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.

Elisabeth Elliot on Waiting

I might have poured my heart out on the blog the other day. As I was cleaning up a stack of books, I came across one of my favorite books, A Path through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot. In the book was a piece of paper. I’m not sure what this is from – other than a brief title of “Waiting – Elisabeth Elliot”- but it spoke to me with where I am.

Waiting requires patience – a willingness calmly to accept what we have or have not, where we are or where we wish we were, whomever we live or work with.

To want what we don’t have is impatience, for one thing, and it is to mistrust God. Is He not in complete control of all circumstances, events, and conditions? If some are beyond His control, He is not God.

A spirit of resistance cannot wait on God. I believe it is this spirit which is the reason for some of our greatest sufferings. Opposing the workings of the Lord in and through our “problems” only exacerbates them. It is here and now that we must win our victories or suffer defeats. Spiritual victories are won in the quiet acceptance of ordinary events, which are God’s “bright servants,” standing all around us.

Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands. “Peace I leave with you; I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27, NEB). What sort of peace has He to give us? A peace which was constant in the midst of ceaseless work (with few visible results), frequent interruptions, impatient demands, few physical comforts; a peace which was not destroyed by the arguments, the faithlessness, and hatred of the people. Jesus had perfect confidence in His Father, whose will He had come to accomplish. Nothing touched Him without His Father’s permission. Nothing touches me without my Father’s permission. Can I not then wait patiently? He will show the way.

If I am willing to be still in my Master’s hand, can I not then be still in everything? He’s got the whole world in His hands! Never mind whether things come from God Himself or from people — everything comes by His ordination or permission. If I mean to be obedient and submissive to the Lord because He is my Lord, I must not forget whatever He allows to happen becomes, for me, HI swill at that moment. Perhaps it is someone else’s sinful action, but if God allows it to affect me, He wills it for my learning. The need to wait is, for me, a form of chastening. God has to calm me down, make me shut up and look to Him for the outcome.

His message to me every day
Is wait, be still, trust, and obey.

“This, then, is of faith, that everything, the very least, or what seems to us great, every change of the seasons, everything which touches us in mind, body, or estate, whether brought about through this outward senseless nature, or by the will of man, good or bad, is overruled to each of us by the all-holy and all-loving will of God. Whatever befalls us, however it befalls us, we must receive as the will of God. If it befalls us through man’s negligence, or ill-will, or anger, still it is, in even the least circumstance, to us the will of God. For if the least thing could happen to us without God’s permission, it would be something out of God’s control. God’s providence or His love would not be what they are. Almighty God Himself would not be the same God; not the God whom we believe, adore, and love” (E.B. Pusey, 1800-19982)

The Stone and the Snake

Someone once told me that God typically gives three answers to requests – 1) Yes, 2) No, and 3) Not yet. There’s something that I have requested from Him for years. Like Hannah, I have laid my heart before God in this one thing. And then, recently, I heard His response.

No.

Honestly, it hurt deeply. What I wanted wasn’t bad. It something that many people want. It’s something that is a good thing. But it isn’t what’s best for me at this point in my life…and may never be.

It’s hard to reconcile when our desires, what we imagine to be good for our lives, isn’t what God says is the best for us. While God will allow us to make our choice and I could choose to fulfill my heart’s desire, I don’t want to live in His permissive will. There’s too much room for mediocrity there. I long for His perfect will because I know, in that, I will grow and find life.

Still, it can be painful to leave our heart’s desires on the alter. And I struggled terribly to walk away from that request fully.

Today I was reminded of a point I heard in a message once. There’s this passage in Matthew where Jesus is talking about prayer –

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

(Matthew 7:7-11)

We typically focus on the fact that the Good Father gives good gifts. If we ask Him for a loaf, He will not give us a stone. If human fathers are can do it, just imagine how much our Heavenly Father will take care of us. And that’s very true. When we ask for what we need and it is what is best for us, God is faithful to provide that in His time and manner.

But what if we ask for the stone?

What if we ask for the snake?

What then? Does a good father give his children the thing they ask for, even when it may hurt or kill them? When it will not be the thing they need?

Our sovereign Father will not give us something that will ultimately hurt us any more than an earthly father would let his children play in bleach or give them poison ivy as a salad.

I am learning that our walk with God is all about learning that He is God, that He is holy, that He is loving – beyond my comprehension. I am continuing to learn that this God who calls me His own expects holiness from me and that holiness requires brokenness in me – it requires refining in me. This Abba Father accepts me as I was, as I am, but calls me beyond that.

Sometimes that means no to what I deeply want.

When I ask for the stone, the answer is clearly no. When I ask for the snake, the answer is no. When I want to live beyond God’s perfect will, the answer is no. Our good Father only gives good gifts meant to help me become more like Christ. I may think that my heart’s desire is good for me, but God knows that it isn’t what I need in my life, that He has another purpose.

My challenge now is to walk away, to leave that desire on the alter, and to rely on God to do this with a cheerful heart. My challenge is to remember to call Him good and faithful even when I don’t feel it. My challenge is to remember that God is I AM and I am not.

A new year

For the past two years, I have entered the New Year on this continent:

Photo courtesy of Austin Taylor

Photo courtesy of Austin T.

But this year, I’m here:

Photo Courtesy of Lauren Grow

Photo Courtesy of Lauren G.

It’s a little disorienting not to be traveling this time of year, to be honest. But, while I miss Africa, I miss the children that I get to meet, I miss serving the fatherless, I miss the food, and I look forward to going back at some point in the next few years, I am grateful for my reason for staying home this year: My beautiful family is on one continent this year. And I don’t want to be away from my husband or my toddler for two weeks.

2012 was a great year for us. When I got home from Africa last year, in addition to adorable photos of our Little Man, I got an email that the Congolese government had recognized our adoption. There was one less orphan in the world who was yet to be home. With a miracle of funding (through the generosity of many of you), Ephrem came home six months later. We have grown into our family. Attachment is a process, one that has felt overwhelming at times and is indescribably beautiful overall. When I consider what God has done in all three of us over the past six months, I am speechless. We have a son who calls us Mama and Dad. We have a son who is opinionated and loves spicy food. We have a son who adores Elmo. We has a son who sleeps. (Seriously, that last one is HUGE!) We have a son who seeks us when he needs to be comforted.

We have a son.

As we go into 2013, we are a family.

My heart is open and eager to see what awaits our family in 2013.

I am confident that God has big things in store.

May you be blessed as 2012 ends and 2013 begins.

The Lord bless you, and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.’

Numbers 6:24-26

Who He Is

“Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge (our High Tower and Stronghold). Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!”

Psalm 46:10-11, Amplified

Where

I read this quote recently:

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
-Theodore Roosevelt

I’ve been challenged by that quote for a little over a week. It’s not so much the “doing” part. It’s the “where” part. Because sometimes where we are isn’t where we think we should be. It isn’t maybe where we want to be.

Honestly, I’ve struggled a lot with the “where” part of my life because I didn’t expect to be “here” when Ephrem came home – “here” as a mother who works outside of the home to provide financially for her family. I didn’t expect to be an employed mom, because my idea of “where” was at home, being a full-time at-home mom. We had planned for me to be his mommy at home. When the adoption hit warp speed and it was clear that I wasn’t going to be a stay-at-home mom like I had envisioned, I was tripped up. Because it didn’t fit my plan.

And then I remembered a conversation I once had with a co-worker a couple of years ago. Before Evan and I became parents or had really talked about becoming parents, my sweet friend was missing her young son while she and I were at work. She returned to work once her maternity leave ended and worked long hours in our very demanding job. She had tears in her eyes as she shared with me what was probably one of the most profound pieces of unintentional advice I’ve ever needed, “Sometimes, caring for your child means that you work and someone else watches him all day. And it’s hard, but that’s what you do to take care of your child.” I don’t think my friend knew how much I would come to lean on those words in this season.

This “where” is yet another opportunity to learn to yield, to allow God to have His will in my life, to be obedient despite the feeling that I know best (clearly I don’t). I am striving to rely on God to do what I can, with what I have (time, energy, focus), where I am (at home or work). When I’m home that means being completely available to my family and being a mommy. When I’m at work that means being diligent to work hard as a grant writer. I might not have planned to be here, but God has a bigger purpose, more refined plan, and better vision for this employed momma. He knows the desires of my heart, but I have to trust Him that in this season, we are all exactly where we need to be.

This one thing

Sorry for the silence, folks. I’m still trying to adjust to this world with bottles, baby food, diapers, nap time, pterodactyl happy or unhappy screaming….and now work as I return intermittently for the remainder of my FMLA leave.

I’ve been seeking God about new directions, the desires of my heart, and His timing. These types of seasons are so hard. Though I plead with God for what I want, I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know how things will work out. I simply continue to sit and wait, hoping that He will answer me, that He will continue to be faithful to my requests.

I’m sure this post is vague and you might be thinking, what is she asking for? Without sharing too much publicly, I’m asking God to continue to fill the desires of my heart. Although I have specifically asked for two things, I am praying this one thing:

That God would give me His will.

This point was underscored during the message at church on Sunday about prayer. I am making my request of what I do want and hope will be His will, but ultimately I want to have His perfect will accomplished in my life. What that looks like, I’m not sure right now. Until I hear otherwise, I think it means continuing to be where we are.

I never thought the words of the “Lord’s Prayer” to be painful, until I realized what those words require of me: humility, faith, forgiveness, repentance, and an understanding that I do not, in fact, know what’s best for me. Those words are not merely words any longer. They are a reminder to live for a God who is holy, sovereign, provision, forgiving, and faithful.

Whatever I think I want I for my life, He clearly knows better. He is a Father who gives good gifts. The Creator of the world who, in His goodness, created all things, will certainly guide us in the very best path for our lives as the Shows family.

Yes, Lord, “Thy will be done.”
Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6:9-13

The post I’ve waited to write

Here we are. A year and a few months after we started our adoption journey (and one  year after we officially started fundraising…), and we have a crazy announcement.

We started with a “little” seed of $1,000 (this is relative folks).

And now?

We are 100% funded for our adoption.

Costs are covered.

100%

Just in time for the Shows family to become a Party of Three.

Thank you EVERYONE who gave out of kindness. Who gave sacrificially. Who gave not knowing us personally. Who gave your loose change or $4,000, and everything in-between. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Christ to us. Thank you for caring for an orphan-no-more. As Evan has said, even though we cannot adequately thank you doesn’t mean we won’t try.

When we step out in faith, we don’t always how it’s going to work out. Evan and I felt so strongly to start our family through adoption – despite not having all the money in the bank, despite not having everything “perfect” – and everything has fallen into place, especially the funding. I remember looking at the adoption costs in fear. Honestly, it was the most intimidating part of the process. Yet, God continues to be faithful to our family.

And He was faithful through you.

For anyone who is in a place where they need faith for whatever they feel God is calling them to do, I hope our family is a testimony. Just ask for faith. Take that step. It will be reckless. It will be crazy. You will feel like a fool.

But I assure you, if you ask for faith, God will provide. It might not be as you expect. It might not be easy. The journey may break you in more ways that you can even know. But God will grow you in your faith.

So jump.

And watch your wings grow.